Egypt’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) expects to receive official interest on its sale of four fourth–generation (4G) mobile network licenses from the country’s telecoms operators in the enar future.

It is understood that Telecom Egypt’s (TE’s) board has “tentatively” approved plans to buy a 4G licence, having expressed a plan to launch 4G services within a year of receiving the required frequencies.

It was also reported in July that TE was discussing an EG£5bn ($560m) loan with local banks to fund its 4G licence acquisition.

TE is the monopoly fixed line service provider, which has also been granted a unified telecoms licence that would allow it to offer mobile services. It currently maintains 44.9 per cent shareholding in Vodafone Egypt, one of the country’s three mobile network operators (MNOs). The other MNOs include the Egyptian subsidiaries of Orange (France) and Etisalat (UAE).

It is not clear if the three MNOs are planning or willing to buy the licence at the price offered by the NTRA.

An anonymous source in the finance sector, however, has indicated in July that Etisalat Egypt has been in discussions with banks about a similar-sized load ($560m).

Vodafone Egypt is understood to be “currently studying the 4G licence draft”. The company’s external and legal director Khaled Hegaz told local media that it was too early to review financing options for any purchase.

Presenting a strong contrast to the hesitation of Egypt’s MNOs in acquiring the licence, Kuwait-based Zain has formally indicated an interest to participate in bidding for the licence.

Zain informed the Kuwait Stock Exchange on 18 July that it has sent an official letter to Egypt’s Communications Ministry to “discuss the possibility of applying for the 4G licence”.

The older 3G remains the dominant mobile network in Egypt.

Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa with significantly smaller population compared to Egypt have already deployed more advanced versions of 4G.